(June 11) Despite cool spring weather that hit the Bay State, the Massachussets strawberry season expects to meet its mid-June start date with larger fruit, growers and the state Department of Food and Agriculture say.

This was made possible, according to Sonia Schloemann of the University of Massachussets Extension, thanks to growers working around the clock to ensure the harvest began on time, according to a news release.

"There were a lot of sleepy growers during the couple of cold weeks in May," said the small fruit specialist in the release. "Many growers needed frost protection, which requires watering throughout the night to keep the buds at 32 degrees." Strawberry growers use their irrigation equipment to protect the fruit's buds, which can be affected by spring frost.

"Frost got some of our early varieties, but it actually helped thin out the others to produce larger berries," said Jim Geoghegan of Sunshine Farm, Framingham, whose firm began harvest the weekend of June 15.

Massachussets annually produces almost 1.6 million pounds of strawberries on 212 strawberry farms. The majority of the crop is direct marketed through pick-your-own farms, farmstands or farmers' markets, said Diane Baedeker Petit, communications coordinator for the Massachussets Department of Food and Agriculture, Boston.